Exclusive: Mika Combs and Canaan Smith talks 'The Amazing Race'
By Christopher Rocchio, 10/26/2009
When Mika Combs spent 30 minutes debating whether or not to go down a six-foot waterslide before her The Amazing Race experience with boyfriend Canaan Smith, both should've known they'd be in trouble.
Mika's fear of water and heights resulted in the newly dating country singers from Nashville, TN becoming the sixth team eliminated from The Amazing Race's fifteenth season during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.
On Monday, Mika and Canaan talked to Reality TV World about how they thought Mika would be able to overcome her fears while on the show; why Mika's battle with the six-foot waterslide before the show caused their ouster to be ironic; how Canaan was able to forgive his girlfriend; and why Mika's experience on Fox's short-lived Nashville docu-reality series didn't really help her on The Amazing Race.
Reality TV World: Mika, every The Amazing Race season always seems to have at least a couple of Roadblock or Detour tasks that involve extreme heights or water -- whether it's something like bungie jumping, high-board diving, paragliding, or rock climbing. Why did you go on the show if you had such a bad fear of heights and water -- did you think you'd be able to overcome those fears or were you just hoping this season wouldn't feature those types of tasks?
Mika: I pretty much assumed there would be something. I knew in my heart there would be. I thought it would be an opportunity for me to try and overcome my fears. But when I was there in the moment I realized I'm just who I am and I'm scared to death of heights and water. Before the show -- before we left -- I did my best to try to overcome some fears. I couldn't really swim, so I was trying to learn how to swim.
Canaan: She actually went down a waterslide off the back of a pontoon boat about two weeks before we left.
Mika: But it was six-feet high! So I knew that it was coming. I just thought that somehow we could... I don't know. I don't know what I thought. But any ways I thought I could overcome it.
Reality TV World: So Canaan, it sounds like you knew Mika had these fears. Did you just think they weren't that bad?
Canaan: I told her from the beginning if we get to a challenge where she was holding us up because she wouldn't jump or wouldn't go over the edge than I'd push her butt. (laughing) But I wasn't scared about that. I figured that we'd be able to overcome anything together really.
I also figured that if it came to it, that if I was allowed to push her over the edge then I certainly would. I tried on the waterslide last night. Unfortunately the rules of the game prevented me from being able to do that. But if not, I'd of done it for sure. (laughing)
Reality TV World: You guys certainly sound like you knew this could be a problem. Had you anticipated or imagined that type of task could be the way your The Amazing Race journey would end?
Canaan: Not at all. It's so ironic just because two weeks before that we were out on the lake with all of our friends in Nashville and this pontoon boat and like we said, she sat on this little six-foot waterslide for 30 minutes trying to go down.
We're all coaxing her -- trying to convince her to go down -- and I remember one of my friends told me, he was concerned, he was like, "Listen dude, you're going around the world together. I'm afraid she's going to hold you up with something like this." So it's completely ironic that it was a waterslide that ended our journey. But at the same time, we did it because we were confident that we could learn from this whole trip together and grow from it.
Reality TV World: Mika, a fear of height and a fear of water -- a waterslide would presumably be a terrible combination of those two fears. What was the bigger issue for you -- was it more an issue of the height or the water or were they about equal?
Mika: Probably the height.
Reality TV World: That's what I figured.
Mika: When I was sitting at the top it was just straight down. I didn't even want to look at the bottom because I was too scared.
Reality TV World: Do you think there was any way you would have eventually gone down that waterslide?
Mika: I think if I would have went down the waterslide it would have had to of been one of those things where I just went automatically and didn't think about it. But that's so hard for me. It's just so tough.
Reality TV World: You'd made your fear of heights and water abundantly clear throughout the season -- but you were still able to deal with both on separate occasions. Why do you think weren't you able to overcome it this time?
Mika: Well the times before I didn't have to do anything extreme with them. At the Burj Dubai [the world's tallest building] walking out on the balcony wasn't that big of a deal because I didn't have to get on the edge or jump off or anything crazy like that. Then in the boats, it was pretty scary but it wasn't extreme. It was just in the water.
Reality TV World: Canaan, in your mind was there anything you could have done to get her to go down that you didn't try?
Canaan: No, because I tried everything. I started out sweet and sensitive -- the hands off approach -- and then realized that the clock was ticking. So I tried to kind of help her along myself. Neither one was working and I realized that. There was nothing I could do.
Reality TV World: After you two were eliminated, Canaan you said that you weren't holding Mika's inability to go down the slide against her.
Reality TV World: But you seemed to be doing just that when you guys were at the top of the waterslide and you were pushing her and yelling that she was going to make you lose the race. Did you have some kind of a change of heart on the way to the Pit Stop?
Canaan: I don't know. We're real human beings, and if something happens like that to any other competitive guy in the world they're going to be pissed off. You spend so much of your time and energy going around the world and a stupid waterslide is going to hold it up? So I was completely upset and I embraced my emotions at the top. But when I got to the bottom I realized Mika's got to be feeling the same way.
She's going to be feeling like she let me down. There's no worse feeling on the Earth than regret, and there's no worse action on my part than unforgiveness. Not working together would have been terrible for us individually and for our relationship. I'm forgiven for so many things in my life that it would be silly to not pass along forgiveness to Mika for not being able to overcome something that ultimately she had no control over.
Reality TV World: How long were you at the top of the waterslide before "Teammates" Herbert "Flight Time" Lang and Nathaniel "The Big Easy" Lofton arrived?
Canaan: About 30 to 40 minutes. Yeah, it was a long time. (laughing)
Reality TV World: Were you aware of the two-minute rule before they got there?
Reality TV World: Okay, so that was stated to you beforehand?
Canaan: Yeah. One of the strategies I took was to try and make Mika believe that they were coming up the steps right then and there. "You have two minutes, no more than two minutes." But those two minutes turned into 10, and then 20, and then 30 before they actually became really two minutes.
Reality TV World: So Mika the two minutes didn't really have any bearing on your attempts to go down?
Mika: It did. There was a point where I was sitting at the top like, "Okay, I'm sitting here. All I have to do is let go." In a way it did, but in a way it just didn't. The fear was controlling me.
Reality TV World: Canaan you seemed upset by the fact that Flight Time and Big Easy were giving Mika a hard time and even called Big Easy a "piece of crap" as he went down the slide. Do you still think their behavior was over the line, given the show is a competition?
Canaan: I think it was a little bit of both. I definitely think in the moment that it was over the line considering that Big Easy himself has multiple children. If his little girl was at the top of the slide in a fit of fear and tears and I came along and told her, "Don't so it, you'll get hurt. Just stay here. Don't go down the slide" -- knowing that that's making her even more upset -- I think he would be pretty pissed about that. So I actually jumped up and I went up into his face.
They didn't show any of this, but I gave it to him. I told him it's ridiculous, and I told him to shut up. I tried to make him stop, but they just kept going. I understand that it's a race and you're trying to do whatever it takes.
They're used to trash-talking on the basketball court, but this was a little bit different in my eyes because it was real emotions -- a girl that they knew was terribly afraid and in the moment she as having a difficult time. So to capitalize on somebody else's fear was too much.
Reality TV World: Were you guys simply hoping that it was a non-elimination leg?
Mika: I was praying walking up [to the Pit Stop]. I was like, "Let this be..." It was halfway through, I was like, "Maybe there's a glimmer of hope." But...
Canaan: Yeah, I did to. We were due for one! (laughing)
Reality TV World: What was the reaction of the other teams when they learned what caused your elimination?
Canaan: They were very sympathetic towards us. They felt terrible just because it was such a bad way to go out and we had done so well on that leg -- we had gained a lot of ground, we were cruising through all the challenges. So I think a lot of people just felt terrible for us.
They felt sorry for Mika, that she had to feel so afraid in the moment. And they felt sorry for me. We had good support. We had a lot of good support.
Reality TV World: One of the funnier moments in the season was with the Jackie Kennedy photo in Cambodia, when Canaan you thought it was Queen Elizabeth...
Canaan: I really didn't. That was an edit. We were asking the locals throughout the day, "Who was in the picture?" The locals kept saying it was a picture of Queen Elizabeth.
Those were my words exactly when I was in the interview: "The locals kept saying it was a picture of Queen Elizabeth." If you go back and watch the edit, and look at my emotions and my inflections when I'm saying it was a picture of Queen Elizabeth. You'll see it was edited.
Reality TV World: So when did you learn when it was Jackie Kennedy, when you saw the photo at the hotel?
Canaan: Yeah. In an interview later on somebody asked, "Do you have any idea who it was?" At this point we still didn't know, so we took a guess. I remember guessing one of the Kennedys, and I was obviously right. But they chose to make us look like the blonde southerners. (Mika laughs)
Reality TV World: Mika, you had previously appeared on Fox's Nashville reality show a couple of years ago. That show's format was obviously different from The Amazing Race, but do you think that previous reality experience ended up giving you any advantages or disadvantages over any of the other teams?
Mika: No, not really. The show Nashville, I mean it was good experience in front of the camera. But when you're on The Amazing Race it's not even like you're on a TV show. It's like it's just you and the world and you're trying to get to the next clue. (laughing)
Reality TV World: What's the current status of your relationship? Are you guys still dating?
Canaan: We sure are.
Reality TV World: After you were eliminated, was there anybody you really began rooting to win the $1 million? Was there anybody you didn't want to see win?
Canaan: Well [previously eliminated team Lance Layne and Keri Morrione] are still going to win if you can believe it or not. (laughing)
Mika: Lance with those roundhouse kicks...
Canaan: Lance will use his kung-fu master skills. But no, we were pulling for everybody. Everyone was a friend.
Mika: It sounds cliche, but we pretty much got close to everybody else out there.
Reality TV World: So you got along with everybody?
Canaan: For the most part, yeah.
Reality TV World: What was your favorite overall experience on the show?
Mika: I loved Tokyo and even though Dubai was the end of our journey, it was great to see the world's tallest building -- even though I'm scared of heights -- it was an amazing sight to see.
Canaan: I loved the feeling you would get from being placed in these completely bizarre scenarios that you would never otherwise be in -- like walking onto the Japanese game show. You're placed in these environments where it's just out-of-body, and I love the out of body experience.
It's so cool to be able to travel the world, but to be able to travel the world on a scavenger hunt where you don't know where the next thing is coming, that's the ultimate thing. So I loved it all.
Canaan: Surprised us? That no one could ever get ahead. All the teams got on the same flights and all ended up catching up and finishing...
Mika: With a footrace.
Canaan: ... in a footrace. So it was really surprising that we all ended up on the same flights and nobody could get ahead.
Reality TV World: Was there anything that you wanted to make it onto the show that was edited out?
Canaan: My fight at the top of the stairs with Big Easy. That would've been awesome. Umm... We had a really good heated argument -- Mika and I did -- in Dubai. They only showed a clip of me throwing my bag into the trunk and trying to communicate with our taxi driver. But her and I laid into each other pretty good. (Mika laughs)
Reality TV World: How were you cast for The Amazing Race? Was it your first time applying for the show?
Canaan: It was our first time. Our story was that we're the newly dating country singers. That's the truth, we've only known each other for a short amount of time and we're both country music singers and songwriters. That was our platform.
Reality TV World: Are you guys still pursuing country music?
Canaan: Yeah, it's going great. I actually just found out today that a song that I wrote called "Runaway" by a band called Love and Theft is on the Billboard country charts for the third week at the No. 10 spot.